Tuesday, August 25, 2015

PCT or OCT? This summer, maybe the OCT

I just finished backpacking 100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon (Santiam Pass to Barlow Pass on Mount Hood). GREAT trip. Beautiful trip. Smoky trip. Very smoky.

I also just received an e-mail from someone who had been planning to hike the PCT through the Mount Adams area in southern Washington but, given all the fires burning (and trail closures) has decided to do a few days on the Oregon Coast Trail instead. Not a bad idea. Some additional thoughts about PCT versus OCT in late summer 2015:

There are a LOT of people hiking the PCT this summer. Presumably it's the Wild effect: I read that hits to the PCT Association website were up nine-fold this year. Last time I section-hiked the PCT (Crater Lake to McKenzie pass) was 14 years ago: we didn't encounter more than 6 or 8 through-hikers in 143 miles, and we never camped with anyone else. This year it was a race to the campsites; at Warm Springs River, we camped with more than a dozen other backpackers, most of them through-hikers. In fact, rarely did we not camp with other people. The through-hikers are great people: they roll in late, they're up and out early, they're very low-impact, and I don't think they are responsible for the large piles of poo and toilet paper we found at a couple of campsites. Still, there are a lot of people out there on the trail this year.

There are a lot of fires in the Cascades. And they're only growing, at least as of today. About half the time during our section hike the sky was very smoky. And we made a quick exit from Jefferson Park after a tanker helicopter suddenly appeared and started sucking water out of Russell Lake, then returned every 3 minutes for more. Turns out he was filling a firefighting reservoir, and the fire on the Warm Springs Reservation wasn't THAT close. Yet. But it got very smoky very fast, and it was pretty scary.

The fires are causing lots of trail closures. Every year there are some, but what a drag for people who managed to hike from Mexico to Washington and then to have to take a big detour, or even quit.

The Oregon Coast Trail is an entirely different animal: not nearly as remote, for one thing. But it doesn't require as much planning either: no water filtering or stress about water sources, no food drops, etc. If you haven't firmed up your late summer/early fall backpacking plans, it's something to consider.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Celebrating mid-life with an OCT thru-hike

In January I received the following e-mail from a woman named Patti:

Buena Vista Beach Access, south of Gold Beach
"Bonnie, thanks for your blog, book and all that you've put out there to advance the ease of hiking the OCT. I've been poring over your blog. My husband and I visited Gold Beach 3 years ago and completed multiple day hikes during that week; I was smitten and vowed to return. Now, on the verge of turning 55 and having made a major life change, I've been mulling the possibility of thru-hiking the OCT toward the end of summer 2015. My question is this ... am I completely crazy to even be thinking of doing such a thing? While I've day hiked 14 miles at a stretch (and stumbled toward the end!), that's a very different animal than hiking day in and out 10 to 15 miles for a month or more. The up side is that I don't need to be anywhere, nor do I have a schedule, so I could adjust the hike accordingly. In your estimation are there reasons for hikers to meet up with someone periodically along the trail? Your blog stated that you didn't feel safety was an issue. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated as I contemplate the adventure."

We corresponded a couple of times--but I had no idea if she carried through with the idea. Then this morning I opened my email to find this progress report from Patti. She's doing it!

Harts Cove
"It's been many things so far. Yesterday went over Cascade Head with a side trip to Harts Cove. Put in over 16 miles. In order, saw bear scat, heard loud barking of sea lions on Harts Cove Trail (they were in a cove so couldn't see them), and then saw 12  elk on the Nature Conservancy Trail ... Began hiking Aug. 2. Have needed to take a couple of days off to allow the ol' body to recover. Amazing beauty at every turn."

I'm impressed that she took the time for a side trip to (magnificent) Harts Cove rather than (like some of us) powering south with a minimum of detours. Actually I'm impressed that she had a dream, did the research, and is going for it. Go Patti!

UPDATE: After posting this, I received the following e-mail: "Please let Patti know that women in their mid-70s have completed solo thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail and are now on the Continental Divide Trail to complete the Triple Crown."